Monday 26 May 2014


I spent July & August of 1976 in Wageningen in the Netherlands, where I stayed at the International Agricultural Centre, a sort of hotel for agronomists, and it was a positive experience for multicultural me. Dutch lunch was the same meal as breakfast except that there was the soup - that was novel. The foreigners with a smattering of Dutch called this meal de tweede ontbijt. A mad obsession in grown men with cycling - that was novel.  The communal telly covered the Tour de France every flippin' evening: when I arrived on the the 1st July, the tour had been running a week and I was bemused at the enthusiasm for watching fit young chaps toiling uphill on bikes.  But after I few days I got the scope of it and had some of the subtleties explained to me in a variety of accents by my colleagues. Qualified fun.

In 1998, the Tour came to Ireland for a few stages at the start. We piled the girls into the car and drove 20km South towards New Ross, parked in a field, and went and stood by the roadside in the sun with a heaving crowd of gawpers.  Nothing happened for a long time, there were several false alarms and finally the leaders, followed closely by the pelleton, appeared round a sweeping corner of the main road and paced off down the hill until they disappeared round another corner.  They had been visible for about 15 seconds; including the motorcycle outriders, the spare-part cars and the ambulance, the whole experience lasted a couple of minutes.  I'm glad I didn't have to pay for the experience and it was good for the kids to see something that is surely part of European culture.

Patrick Bevin
This year we're at it again.  The Giro d'Italia came to Ireland two weekends ago and cycled from Belfast to Dublin. A pal o mine crossed the country to see that happen but otherwise the event didn't surface for me. On Saturday however An Post Rás, Ireland's parochial answer to the Tour and the Giro was covering 147km between Carrick-on-Suir and Baltinglass via Mt Leinster.  Accordingly I drove (shame!) the 700m to the Cross in good time to see the event.  In contrast to 1998, there were no false alarums because, all techied up with my laptop and the wireless dongle, I could scrape live coverage of progress from the web.  Again in contrast to 1998, I was there alone except for another old buffer with a camera. We were all set to watch in a watery sunshine when a jeep containing two attractive screeched to a halt beside me, thrust 2 Kelly-green Post Rás T-shirts into my hands and zoomed off again. Us two old chaps struggled into the free kit to watch as the leaders, the pelleton and a  l o n g  t a i l  of stragglers went past.  The real thighs had separated themselves from the wannabes by rising from the saddle and driving themselves through the wall and up the incline of "Mt Leinster" (actually only her shoulder at The Nine Stones).

Verdict? - been there, done that, got the T-shirt

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